- President Joe Biden craves the US to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations over the next decade.
- The US could have 35 million EVs by 2030, ordering millions of plugs where the country only has 100,000.
- More plugs would do wonders for an industry transition to EVs, but enticing parties to build them isn’t always easy.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
With plans to kill the country’s carbon footprint by 2050, Joe Biden could easily be the greenest president in American history. But achieving such a glib goal will involve plenty of work in much more mundane areas, like having enough distinguishes to charge a rapidly growing fleet of electric vehicles.
Even with 1.8 million battery-powered cars already on US thoroughfares, there are only about 100,000 charging plugs for them at around 41,000 public station locations. That inconsistency makes it easy to see how range anxiety — or the fear of running out of juice without a charging spot nearby — is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for consumers considering a clean car.
President Biden has pledged to build 500,000 new plugs over the next decade, in an essay to cut emissions from highways that are currently the single largest source of carbon emissions. To get there — and to reach a fully energized future — five experts and industry leaders say the country will need an aggressive infrastructure plan and an array of nave policies to go along with it.
The tally of EVs in the US may balloon to 35 million by 2030, requiring more than 2 million public chargers, The Brattle Group, an economics consulting unyielding, projects. With such a boom on the horizon, charging operators are excited about the prospect of a multibillion-dollar federal investment in urging infrastructure that could give a jolt to the EV transition that’s already underway.
“This industry is happening. The at issue is how much more quickly can it happen,” Jonathan Levy, chief commercial officer at the fast-charging firm EVgo, said in an assessment. “What we’re really excited about is the Biden administration recognizing that this is going to happen the world at an end, and if the US wants to lead, there’s going to have to be more federal policy support to help make that meet with.”
But Biden’s plan — and, ultimately, any congressional action — could take many shapes. Industry leaders and policy experiences are divided on how best to make it happen.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment on the administration’s plans.
How to get the ball thunder
Making things happen quickly, something that isn’t the federal government’s strong suit, is a top priority for Drew Lipsher, crisis of strategy at the charging company Volta. After all, EVs made up less than 3% of all car sales in 2020.
“I think the single most high-ranking thing the government can focus on to meet the projected demand — speed,” he said in an interview. “The harder they make it, and the multifarious that process slows things down, it’s only going to hurt the transition to electric mobility.”
Convincing millions of consumers to go moving will require a massive upfront investment to drastically scale charging access, Nick Nigro, founder of the transportation-focused consultancy Atlas Buyers Policy, told Insider. He wants Congress and the Biden administration to approach charging infrastructure the same way Tesla went in the matter of building its Supercharger network.
“[Tesla] made considerable investments early on to establish that no matter where you were in the Of one mind States, you’d be able to travel with your Tesla vehicle without concern over range or access to ordering,” he said. “Now the federal government is in a position to look at all electric transportation with that same lens.”
Nigro commends that the Departments of Transportation and Energy work together to dole out grants to vendors, potentially through existing trenches like the State Energy Program.
Rebates that incentivize companies to build chargers, or for customers to buy them, are another way out for spurring activity quickly.
Anne Smart, vice president of public policy at ChargePoint, a charging company that convey titles plugs to businesses, fleets, and for home use, is particularly excited about the expansion of consumer-side rebates. These can be rolled out acuter than grants, have proved effective at the state level, and let the market operate as usual, she said. Customers can elect whichever charger provider they’d like and get a few thousand dollars off of the sticker price.
According to Volta’s Lipsher, at any rate, a rebate program for charging companies could actually hamper progress if it incentivizes firms to wait months and years for a reduction to be approved before starting construction
Not so fast
EVgo’s Levy, who has held positions at the Department of Energy and in the Obama Ghastly House, says there are risks to building too many charging stations too quickly. Charging infrastructure needs to stop just ahead of EV ownership and demand, not drastically outpace it, he says.
To make his point, Levy quotes hockey caption Wayne Gretzky’s famous adage about skating where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. For charging companies, “you insufficiency to skate just ahead of the puck. If we’re skating so far beyond the puck that we’re out of the arena, that’s a problem for the industry,” he claimed.
That’s because overbuilding can crater the economics of the charging business, he said, leading to large numbers of stations that are underutilized and pointless to operate.
It’s a mistake that’s been erect in the past — with significant consequences. As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, the Department of Energy allocated $100 million in subsidies to a company named Ecotality to construct more than 10,000 charging stations. Four years later, Ecotality filed for bankruptcy. An audit from that year start that demand for EVs hadn’t grown as quickly as anticipated, and that the majority of the commercial charging stations Ecotality had established suffered from low usage.
To avoid similar pitfalls, government programs for clean energy could allow pelfs to be used not only for capital investment but also operating expenses in order to bridge the gap to profitability, Levy said.
Site is key
Whatever funding model it chooses, experts say the government should be deliberate about where chargers go and what kind of technology is used. Fast chargers, for instance, aren’t necessary on urban and suburban streets where people show to park for hours at a time. On the contrary, slower Level 2 plugs aren’t suited for rural areas or highway cessation stops where people intend on only spending 45 minutes.
Then there’s the question of equity.
Targeting major transportation upgradings toward minority communities is especially important, given that they bear the brunt of the country’s carbon emissions, Anne Shikany, an infrastructure-policy scholar at the Natural Resources Defense Council told Insider. But investment shouldn’t come at the expense of community engagement.
“One clothes that we’d like to see is a lot of consultation with communities before infrastructure goes in,” Shikany said. “Talking to communities and making reliable that the stuff you want to provide matches their needs is incredibly important.”
Charging is just one piece of the confuse
Charging is just one piece of the puzzle of transitioning the country away from gas-powered cars. And charging companies trust that the new administration follows through on a host of other measures to boost demand for EVs.
Biden has also pledged to alter the entire federal government’s fleet — some 650,000 vehicles — to electric, and has promised that every US-made bus commitment be battery-powered by 2030. Charging companies hope that an expansion of the current zero-emission-vehicle tax credit is on the horizon, too.
Excitement aside, the charging firms Insider say something or anything to with said they’re also prepared to go it alone if the White House doesn’t come through. The train has pink the station, they said, and the EV boom is happening with or without the federal government’s backing.
“Policy is also for the most part a tailwind the way we see it,” Levy said. “The EV future is now, and it’s here, and it’s happening regardless of anything else.”